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Lionel Messi addresses fans after pre-season absence: “Unfortunately, This happens in football”

Lionel Messi has found himself in the midst of controversy after missing a pre-season friendly in Hong Kong, sparking disappointment among local fans.

Despite Inter Miami’s convincing 4-1 victory over a League XI, Messi was left on the bench due to a hamstring issue, leading to chants, jeers, and calls for refunds from the near-capacity crowd of 38,323 at Hong Kong Stadium.

In response to the unexpected backlash, Messi defended himself, expressing his regret at not being able to play and assuring fans that it was beyond his control.

The football star acknowledged the fans’ enthusiasm, stating, “I always want to play, especially in these games where we travel so far and people want to see our games.” Messi’s absence, he noted, was a result of an unpredictable aspect of football – injuries.

The disappointment among fans was palpable, with chants of “We want Messi” resonating throughout the second half.

Lionel Messi sat on the bench in Hong Kong, China.
“No Messi, refund please” as fans showed their frustration with a banner aimed towards the Argentinian superstar (Image: South China Morning Post)

When it became evident that Messi wouldn’t take the field, frustration escalated, and the crowd voiced their discontent with chants of “Refund.”

Even Inter Miami co-owner David Beckham faced a challenging moment, drowned out by jeers as he attempted to thank supporters during a post-match speech.

The Hong Kong government’s major sports events committee (MSEC) expressed its deep disappointment at Messi’s absence.

The committee had provided substantial grants of HK$16m (£1.5m) to organizers Tatler Asia for the event, expecting Messi to play a minimum of 45 minutes. Tatler Asia, however, announced that they would not request the money, considering Messi’s non-participation.

Messi shed light on his current physical condition, mentioning that the hamstring injury, confirmed by a scan after the previous match in Saudi Arabia, is improving.

The 36-year-old, who has claimed the prestigious Ballon d’Or eight times, expressed optimism about his recovery and hinted at a possible appearance in the upcoming match against Japanese champions Vissel Kobe in Tokyo on Wednesday.